February 2017 Culture Message

There are many questions for which there are no answers. Sometimes in the face of not knowing, we find ourselves sharply inhaling without the ability to exhale, or even breathe at all. The resulting dizziness is more than the lack of oxygen; it is the numb yet stinging reality that there is an absence of compassion, accountability…humanity. We were in such a position as we tried to unknot a long piece of baling twine from the starving horse’s halter. The desperation and worry that he silently exuded was palpable; his ribcage disturbingly accented even under the coarse and filthy coat, his feet so grossly neglected and overgrown that he had to painfully attempt to raise them as we walked him toward our awaiting trailer.

In an attempt to understand the ragged jigsaw puzzle of Nelson’s earlier life, we find ourselves dragged through a knothole of his prior pain and despair. Dumped in a riverbed with an untreated broken leg, the starving and battered horse was “rescued” by an abuser, for six long months of which he was kept alone and in the filthiest of conditions, where he continued to be starved and neglected. We are still unclear as to whether he was tied to a tree or kept in an unbearably small enclosure. The only thing that we do know is that they did not want us, and would not allow us, to see the site of his confinement. The call, which is not unfamiliar to us, was not one of concern for the suffering, but one of not wanting the horse to die on their property. They say that the eye is the window to the horse’s soul. Nelson’s eye was cloaked with a hooded lid, with more ripples than an aged oak. Yet he followed us not so much with his current resignation, but rather a last puff of latent hope. His weakened condition made it far more difficult to unload than to load him. We patiently partially backed and half-turned him down the ramp to his new home, a ranch he now owns…and a dozen or so red-clad awaiting family members who now own him…or at least his heart. We held each other, and silently and emotionally embraced our neighbor, as we feared that hugging Nelson might bruise his skeletal frame.

He has settled into our isolation barn, not so much to protect our other residents from him, but to gently guard Nelson’s fragile self from even the whisper of a common cold. Jesse Coker, our friend and farrier, tended to Nelson’s tragically neglected feet, and our very own Dr. Treser, brimming with compassion and competence, visited and consulted with us on a detailed plan for Nelson’s recovery. There are so many questions that haunt our minds and intrude on the very edges of our conscious thoughts. Perhaps it is the question “why” that is the most pervasive. The answer, without rationale, is to roll up our red sleeves, link arms with our neighbor, take care of our treasured residents…and then tighten our belts, wipe our eyes, and go save another horse.

This culture message is dedicated to our dear Nelson and all those who link arms with us in loving and caring for him.